The jump from The Sims 1 to The Sims 2 introduced better graphics, more building options, more sim creation options, and life stages. Life stages was the big selling point. In The Sims 1 you made a sim (adult or child) and then that sim existed. In a miserable, fire-ridden world. Sometimes if they weren't too depressed, some adult sims would make out enough to have a baby cradle appear. And sometimes, if you had the right expansion, that baby cradle would turn into a child. Who would stay a child. Forever. Until they were carted off to military school because you’re terrible at playing the Sims. In the Sims 2, you could have two adult sims have a baby that included a mix of their “genetics” and that baby would grow to a toddler, and you would teach the toddler life skills like walking and talking, and then that toddler grew to a child, and then they were a teen, and a young adult, and an adult, and then finally an elder. Your sims could have generations. The existence of Life Stages spawned an entirely new way of playing the game that still persists to this day as a core facet.
The jump from the Sims 2 to the Sims 3 introduced better graphics, more building options, much more sim creation options, and an open world. The open world was the main selling point, an amazing idea, and the obvious next step. It took the world from the Sims 2, where your family could have generations, but the families surrounding them were static and moving between lots meant loading screens, to the entire neighborhood aging up with your Sims and being able to go anywhere at any time at the click of a mouse with zero loading screens. The biggest downfall was that the open world’s ability to run was largely dependent on the player’s computer not only being a little above basic but also that it was compatible with the Sims. This was a flaw, but a flaw that should have been fixed and improved upon.
Wrong. Each game up to now has taken all of the features from the game before it and added something major enough to set it apart in a huge way (and entice the fans to buy the game all over again). The Sims 4 added: better graphics, improved building, more sim creation options (with a little bit of backpedaling), and…..emotions? Emotions are the big addition to the Sims 4. Your sims can now be more unique/lifelike/charming/whatever buzzword EA was using . I won’t lie, it’s a cute idea. Even now, seeing people playing the Sims 4 and what quirks the emotions add I think it’s nice. But not base-a-whole-new-series-on-this nice.
To add insult to injury, not only did they not have a game changing idea for the new series, they stripped the game-changing additions from the previous series. Remember the life stages that spawned an entirely new way to play the sims? Yeah, you can’t have the toddler stage anymore. Your babies turn right into kids (sound familiar?). Also, babies are objects. They are literally a bassinet that has to be moved while in build/buy mode. Sims cannot walk around with them, use them with other objects, or do anything else. They may feed, play, and change the baby. This makes the relationship of babies to other sims the exact same as it was in The Sims 1. In 2000.
Also, teens are now little more than watered down adults. They didn’t even use a different mesh; teens are now the exact same height as adults and elders, making them nearly indistinguishable during game play, which is a problem if you’re trying to find a romantic partner for your sim. The justification among fans was that there would be more clothing options but to me it just seems lazy. Teens are a unique life stage and should look like a unique life stage.
Because I hate myself, I spent a lot of time leading up to the Sims 4 release on the Sims forums, where the missing features were meticulously put together in a master list cross-posted to a blog called Sims4News, who also sourced all of their claims (though they’re easily verifiable now). They conveniently broke it down into sections and we will address these features by those sections.
Things that were in The Sims 3 and were removed from The Sims 4:
- No create a style (CAST)
- No modifications to world/public spaces
- No open world - You must incur a loading screen between each active lot; each neighborhood has 1-5 lots total
- No story progression
- No “normal” careers - Law enforcement, Medical, Business, etc. were removed
- No pools
- No terrain tools other than paint; everything is perfectly flat
- No way to create/place new lots - And you only have 2 empty ones at the start of the game!
- No toddlers
- No Mac version of the game at release
Let’s start with Create-A-Style because this was a very, very sore subject for many players. CASt was implemented in the Sims 3 as a way to make absolutely goddamn everything 100% customizable. You want that chair to be made of cow print leather? CASt has your back. You want to show off your sim in a fashionable dress made entirely of wood? CASt can do that. You could put any skin over any object, clothes, items, walls, floors. Obviously a lot of people liked this. I’ll admit I’ve made many a tacky house abusing this tool. Unfortunately CASt would load slowly if your computer was not up for the task of loading every fucking skin in the game. With advancing technology and quality of the most basic computers, you would think that EA/Maxis would want to improve the tool to make it less clunky.
Or, you know, remove it entirely. That works too, in that if you delete the thing causing issues the issues are gone! (But so is the thing).
The lack of the open world, story progression and the inability to modify public lots is the next huge one. Remember that the open world was the thing that made The Sims 3 such a huge, new game. It revolutionized the way you could play by running the world in tandem with your sims and allowing you to have a breathing neighborhood where you could do any activity on a whim. Now there are loading screens between chunks of the neighborhood. But the open world also made the game run poorly for some people, so like CASt the obvious solution was just to remove it. Because remember, if you get rid of the thing that has the issues, you get rid of the issues! In my quest to take a picture of the Sims 3 map I discovered it was actually too large to do that, so here is one from the online Prima Guide:
Story progression not only allowed your sims childhood friend to grow up with them, but also allowed that friend to have a job, get a partner, and eventually generate more sims so that the generations will continue all without you having to lift a finger. Now the sims around you age, but don’t get jobs, marry other sims, or generate a new population. Instead the game just gets more townies, or you have to populate the town yourself. Or, I guess, live in a ghost town with no one buy your active family. Story progression was likely removed because fuck you for wanting your sims to have friends that make sense. Your elder sim is best friends with a child? Deal with it.
Modifying public spaces was something I personally did a lot of in TS3. If you’re given the tools, why not use them? If I wanted my sim to go get married at the beach, drunk at a club, and then practice ballet in the public gym, I could (and did). And it looked fabulous. Look at that beautiful map up there, all those buildings. Those could all be changed, removed, or put elsewhere! Now, despite the world still having some venues, you can’t edit them. They are what they are and if you want the gym to have just one more treadmill then, suck it up buttercup this is as good as it gets. As far as I can tell there was no reason for this change.
The lack of normal careers was just a straight up weird move. You can’t have a sim be a corporate slave, doctor, police officer…which leads me to believe that these things simply no longer exist in the Sims world and is a terrifying mental image if you have experience with sims’ ability to care for themselves. I can’t tell why EA/Maxis decided to remove the “normal” careers. Perhaps to seem more weird and “wacky”? But that doesn’t make sense either because they left other normal jobs in like painter, writer, and chef. Why do they have a criminal career track but no law enforcement? Why is the Secret Agent career track its own thing and not a sub track of the Law Enforcement track like it was in The Sims 3? It’s nonsensical. The jobs are all pure void now, the sims leave the lot in the morning and come back later so there’s no reason to not have more career options.
The lack of terrain tools and the inability to create new lots seems inconsequential to someone who doesn’t play a whole lot of sims, but this was particularly devastating to the people who loved to build. I am not, and have never been, one of those people. I lack the artistic and spatial planning ability to create beautiful and unique houses, but trust me. They exist. One of the things The Sims 3 did was give these builders bucket loads of tools to create their magnificent houses. In TS3 you can build house boats, you can build houses on stilts, you can built houses on hills, you can build a house in the wood or on the beach. You can build anywhere you want, in any way you want. You could also place your own lots which was good for the aforementioned editing of the world. Neither thing is possible in The Sims 4, I assume because simplicity. The world became limited and the developers just couldn’t include that feature anymore. Pretty lame in my opinion.
The lack of toddlers was yet another slap in the face to the previous generations. I already touched on the reasons for this, but let me reiterate. EA/Maxis has, for some reason, decided to essentially rerelease The Sims 1.
The last bullet point is something I think got overlooked. There’s no Mac version. People unfamiliar with Sims but familiar with the gaming industry will reply “so?” But that’s the thing. The Sims is not the same as the gaming community. There has always been a Mac version at release, typically on the same disk even. Mac users have always been able to buy Sims games on the same day as PC users for the same price. Now, it’s questionable whether Mac users will ever get the ability to play The Sims 4. Truly a step back for this series.
Moving on we have a list of features that are severely limited in The Sims 4:
- All buildings on a lot must have the same foundation. No mixing for sheds, garages, etc.
- Babies are mere objects - All interactions are through basinet. There are no baby objects. Babies can only be lifted directly above basinet.
- Backgrounds are illusions - The buildings in the background are not playable in the game.
- Completely FLAT lots - The entire build-able world is completely flat
- Fewer floors/levels, limited to three.
- SIGNIFICANTLY smaller “worlds” of <25 lots compared to 125+ lots in TS3.
- Smaller lots - Lots are limited to 50x50 instead of 64x64.
- Loading screens for individual lots.
- The map is a two-dimensional picture.
- Teens are same height as adults and they, along with elders, all look nearly identical.
I have touched on just about all of these with the exception of the backgrounds. To paraphrase one simguru (what the developers call themselves within the community) the FX guys were able to do more because FX takes way less time than actually developing stuff. This is true, I would assume that drawing and editing a FX tree takes much less time to develop a tree that blows in the breeze, but apparently they just decided to have the FX team fake a bunch of really cool stuff (like a cityscape and steam boats) to taunt players with how truly lame this Sims has become. You see that awesome looking city in the background? Yeah you can’t go there. You know that cute riverboat and trolley that occasionally pass your house? Not even in your wildest of dreams.
Finally, the list rounds off with all the tiny-yet-missed features:
- No acne
- No aliens
- No animated hair
- No aspiration failures
- No babysitters
- No bartender (as NPC)
- No basements
- No bookstores
- No burglars
- No cars (not even as décor)
- No cemeteries
- No cut scenes
- No cleaning skill
- No clothes shopping
- No color wheel, predefined to ~20 colors
- No comfort need
- No curfew
- No customization of multi-tone hair color (users select only main color)
- No dinner proposals
- No diseases or illness
- No dreams
- No environment need
- No eyelash length slider
- No favorites (food, color, music)
- No fears
- No full face make-up
- No garage doors
- No gardener for hire
- No ghosts
- No grocery stores
- No male body hair
- No move object cheat
- No newspapers
- No opacity slider for makeup
- No party invitations from other Sims
- No private school
- No rabbit holes at all - Sims move off-screen for work and school. There are no hospitals, work/school buildings…etc.
- No random or accidental deaths
- No repairman
- No repo man
- No restaurants
- No skin slider
- No swimming/swimwear - Including lakes, fountains, etc.
- No tragic clown or social bunny
- No way to watch a Sim commute to work/school
- No website for browsing exchange or store (in-game only)
- No zodiac signs
All of these features added little enjoyments to the game that made it feel just a little more real. The game is essentially you staring at your sims as they do stuff, so adding small things like the repo man or the ability to propose at dinner spices up the game and made it just a little more fun. The no creatures (ghosts, aliens, etc.) is particularly saddening to be because it was a sort of “rule” EA/Maxis established with themselves starting with The Sims 2. Each expansion has brought a different creature to the game, usually tied in to that game somehow. Vampires with Late Night, Night Life, PlantSims in both Seasons, etc. I love playing as creatures so the fact that they don’t seem to exist in this next leg of the series saddens me.
I would feel like I was doing you a disservice, dear reader, if I did not end this piece with one of the rumors of why this game was stripped of so many features. Keep in mind that this has not been confirmed by anyone, only speculated, and likely never will unless someone steps forward. Remember back to the release day of Sim City (2013) and how smoothly the always-online features worked and how seamlessly players were able to log on and play their newly purchased game? No? That’s because it didn’t happen. The release of Sim City (2013) was an absolute disaster because of the always-online features being entirely insufficient and lackluster. Now imagine you’re a company with a series similar to Sim City (2013) only you plan on having the game not only be always-online, but have a bunch of online “features” like other peoples characters visiting your towns and vice versa. Okay, now imagine you’re that company and you see Sim City fail miserably and scramble to erase all evidence that this other series was supposed to be an online game only don’t move the release date back any more than a couple of months because that’s enough time to completely redesign a game engine right?
Now you have The Sims 4 in all its bare bones, clunky glory.
As a lifelong player of the Sims franchise, everything about this game is a disappointment to me. It isn’t even a matter of waiting for expansion packs to make the base game what I want; the game engine at its core is bad. I don’t want to micromanage all the families in my sims’ town so that it doesn’t die out. I don’t want to have to have loading screens between chunks of the map, and I don’t like that there are barely any lots. Sure the graphics may be “better” but really are they? It just looks a little more cartoony and blockish. The open world of The Sims 3 was the one thing I would mentally beg for when playing The Sims 2. I do not recommend this game to anyone, but especially not to people that have gotten used to the features of The Sims 2 and 3.